Isola: Knicks aim at King and best not miss in regular season… likely their only chance

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JUSTIN LANE/EPA

Carmelo Anthony (l.) and LeBron James face off Thursday night.

The Knicks could really use J.R. Smith to tie LeBron James’ sneakers together. While he’s at it, maybe J.R. can tie James’ hands as well.

Bound and gagged may be the Knicks’ only defense against James, the best player of his generation with two NBA titles in the bank and No. 3 on the horizon. Every year James gets better and seemingly tougher to defeat, especially when the calendar turns to April, May and ultimately June.

The Knicks, of course, took out the Heat three times during the regular season in 2012-13, with two of those victories by 20 or more points. They were in line to meet the Miami Heat in the East finals until Carmelo Anthony had that unfortunate meeting with Roy Hibbert at the rim in Game 6 and suddenly everything changed; the Indiana Pacers are now seen as the legitimate threat to James’ throne.

The Knicks?

The Heat respects Mike Woodson’s club and knows that Anthony can go on a scoring binge. But does anyone see this Knicks team beating Miami four out of seven games in a playoff series? That’s assuming of course, these Knicks even qualify for the playoffs.

“I watch every game, every night,” James said. “So I understand the Knicks are playing much better than they were, especially on that Texas road trip they had.”

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The Knicks certainly do appear to be getting their act together — Smith’s erratic behavior notwithstanding. They’ve won three of their last four, Anthony is at the top of his game and Iman Shumpert has snapped out of his perplexing two-month slump. Still, the record is just 12-22, a mark unbecoming for someone of Anthony’s stature.

Miami is 27-8 and has won three straight as the Heat heads out on the road for six games, including back-to-back games in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The nightlife could be a bigger threat to the Heat than either Anthony or Paul Pierce will be.

“When the Heat comes to town, records are out the window,” says Dwyane Wade. “I don’t look at none of that. I don’t care if a team has lost six in a row, we’re going to get their best. It was a little surprising early on that they struggled as much as they did. Of late, they’ve got some good wins and they’re really trying to find themselves a little bit. It’s the right time for them to really get it together because we come to town.”

LeBron James can also opt out of his contract this July, and there is already talk about him possibly heading to Chicago.

JUSTIN LANE/EPA

LeBron James can also opt out of his contract this July, and there is already talk about him possibly heading to Chicago.

Wade’s health could determine whether Miami pulls off the three-peat. He underwent shock-wave knee therapy in mid-July and now has appeared in six consecutive games. Wade won’t commit to playing both games of the back-to-back but he’s confirmed to be introduced with the starters on Thursday at the Garden. “I’m going to play the Knicks game,” Wade said.

Wade and Pat Riley schemed four summers ago to get James and Chris Bosh, and no matter how the marriage was handled, there is no denying its effectiveness — three trips to the NBA Finals and two trophies. In November, an envious Anthony called the trio “smart” for joining forces. The Knicks never completed their master plan of Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chris Paul. Now, they’re on to Plan B, trying to figure out a way to get Rajon Rondo from Boston and eventually pry Kevin Love from Minnesota. Or is it Kevin Durant? With the Knicks, it’s always the next guy, never the current roster.

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James can also opt out of his contract this July, and there is already talk about him possibly heading to Chicago to join a young core with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. Cleveland can’t be discounted, that is unless it signs Luol Deng to an extension. Good luck to both franchises because Pat Riley isn’t going down without a fight.

Four years after the fact, you never hear anything about James and New York. He was the Knicks’ first, second and third plan in the summer of 2010. It was worth a shot even if the Knicks never really had a shot. Riley had the rings, the sun plus Wade and Bosh. The worst thing to happen to the Knicks over the last 20 years was Riley. That led to the second-worst thing — James saying no.

The Knicks have a roster that breaks down, loses more than it wins and no available cap space if and when Anthony signs his extension. King James is a terrific player, but as long as he stays in the Eastern Conference, the best the Knicks can hope for is winning in the regular season because beating James four out of seven times when it matters it’s next to impossible.

Even with his hands tied.


Daily News – Sports

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